Macrophytes / River Surveys

Macrophytes are plants that live in and by water that can be seen with the naked eye and form an important constituent of river systems. A macrophyte may be an emergent, submerged or floating type of aquatic plant. They can provide cover and a substrate for fish and aquatic invertebrates, as well as producing oxygen and a food source for fish and other species. Macrophytes are known to respond to a variety of different environmental factors, which makes them ideal as indicators for assessing the status and quality of rivers.

There are a number of different methodologies for river macrophyte surveys ranging from MTR/LEAFPAC’s that survey 100 m stretches, to the JNCC river macrophyte survey methodology that comprises surveying 500 m stretches. A full macrophyte survey usually comprises four stages: the initial study to ascertain how and where the survey is to be undertaken, the survey of the chosen river stretches, the data collation and an analysis of the data.

To undertake river macrophyte surveys, surveyors should be experienced in and have an accreditation in river macrophytes, as a number of macrophyte groups, such as Callitriche, Potamogeton and Ranunculus, have species that are difficult to identify that are critical in the assessment of river status.

River macrophyte surveys have been used for a variety of projects and conservation objectives, with one of the main conservation objectives being assessments for the Water Framework Directive. They can be used to assess river status for projects, such as hydroschemes or a proposed construction project (for example bridge building), that may have an impact on a river.

OpenSpace have staff accredited and experienced in River Macrophyte Surveys. Our senior ecologist has obtained a licence for Luronium natans from Natural England. If you require such a Macrophyte survey, then call us on 01228 711841 or email

Updated April 2017